The Bernstein Sonata

Pianists always complained about the Bernstein Sonata: “God, this is not a very good piano part, the left hand is like a boogie-woogie thing, and it’s not easy to play…” One of my pianists said, “You should have it arranged for orchestra.” I called Michael Tilson Thomas because he was one of the executors of the Bernstein Estate, and he said, “Well, you can’t do it, you’re not allowed to do it.  The only way would be if you could find Sid Ramin” – who did all the Bernstein orchestrations – “and, if he agrees to do it, then I think it would be OK with the Estate.” So I found him – he was retired in Florida. He said, “I would do it with just strings.” I said, “That’s perfect, I could play it with the Copland Concerto.” Then he said, “I think I’d have a piano too.” And I said, “Yes, piano, that’s so perfect.” And then he said, “And a touch of percussion.” “Anything!” So that’s what he came up with and we recorded it with the London Symphony.

As told to Ryusuke Kozawa, November 2016 in Tokyo.

RS CD #26 Bernstein Sonata back

Recordings: London, Abbey Road, EMI Studio 1, November 18, 1992, [1/2]; May 8/9, 1993 [3-11]
Producer: Max Wilcox
Recording Engineers: Max Wilcox, Simon Rhodes & Mark Vigars
Publishers: Boosey & Hawkes [1]; MCA [2]; Warner Bros. [3/4/7-11]; Boosey & Hawkes / Chappell & Co. [5]; George Gershwin Music c/0 WB Music [6]
℗ 1993 Sony Music Entertainment